Europe

It may seem hard to understand how one could go bankrupt selling iPads and MacBooks in one of Europe’s richest countries, but that is what happened Tuesday to iCentre, the largest Apple reseller in the Netherlands, writes Matt Steinglass in Amsterdam.

A judge in the Dutch town of Haarlem proclaimed the 34-store chain bankrupt on Tuesday, after a week of negotiations between the company, its creditors and potential buyers failed to produce a rescue plan. And on closer inspection, iCentre’s fate is not so hard to explain. Like other Apple resellers, iCentre was coping with a long-term shift from notebook and desktop computer sales towards smartphones and tablets, which have lower profit margins. Read more

Maija Palmer

HouseTrip.com, the Swiss-based holiday rentals website, became the latest technology start-up to raise money in the recent flurry of funding rounds. The C-round brought Accel Partners in as an investor, alongside existing backers Balderton and Index Ventures. It is possibly the first time these three top European VC investors have all piled into the same company, making HouseTrip seem hot property indeed.

The company, which has raised a total of $60m since it was founded nearly three years ago, is a competitor to US Airbnb, which has also been awash with venture investment money and has a valuation of around $1.3bn. HouseTrip says it focuses more on holiday home rentals, rather than short stays in a spare room. Read more

Maija Palmer

Funding Circle, a UK-based online marketplace where individuals lend directly to small businesses raised $16m of Series B financing from joint investors Index Ventures and US-based Union Square Ventures. This brings the total amount raised by the company to $21m.  Launched in August 2010, the company now facilitates around £1m in loans each week. The company is planning to use the funds to double its staff over the next year.

Dragonplay, a Tel Aviv-based games developer raised $14m in a Series A funding from Accel Partners.  Dragonplay specializes in makes card, casino and board games for smartphones and social networks and is best known for Live Holdem Poker Pro, which has more than 2m monthly active players.  The company will use the investment to expand its portfolio of games. Read more

Maija Palmer

For once it was not shopping and e-commerce that dominated that European VC funding rounds.

In March, financial services were the flavour of the month, with eToro and The Currency Cloud attracting investment. Both of them seek to disrupt the financial services sector by using either social networking or cloud computing to jazz up a staid industry.

Advertising solutions are also finding willing backers, including personalised online ads from MyThings and advertising to wrap around Android apps from StartApp .

 Read more

Maija Palmer

The frenzy to invest in mobile payments providers continues with Boku, the San Francisco-based start-up raising $35m, in a funding round led by Telefónica Digital. It will take the total raised by the mobile transactions company to more than $75m since 2008.

Investors in this round also included New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Index Ventures and Khosla Ventures. Read more

Maija Palmer

A little bit of much-needed consolidation is finally taking place in the European Venture Capital industry. On Wednesday DFJ Esprit and Tempo Capital announced plans to merge their secondary investment businesses.

Tempo is a specialist in this market of buying existing venture capital investments, and DFJ has been dipping its toes in since 2007 when it bought out Cazenove’s venture capital fund. Read more

Maija Palmer

Online shopping and renting out spare capacity in flats and cars appeared to be the investment themes in Europe in January, with consumer-facing internet companies once again getting the majority of the money and attention.

Berlin was the fundraising hot-spot with at least four start-ups raising money, from $50m for SoundCloud to a more modest $1.4m for Gidsy.

This is the first of a series of monthly updates on the early-stage technology companies raising money in Europe.

 Read more

Maija Palmer

Venture capital investors appear to be growing increasingly wary of European companies. In 2011, they put just E4.4bn into 1,012 start-ups in the region, a 14 per cent drop from the previous year, according to Dow Jones VentureSource.

This was the lowest annual deal count since Dow Jones began tracking investments in Europe in 2000. Read more

When Acer last March unceremoniously ousted its then-chief executive Gianfranco Lanci, it was not an amicable parting, with both sides apportioning blame on the other for the split.

But if the Taiwanese company had thought they were rid of Mr Lanci by forcing his resignation, then they are sorely mistaken. Mr Lanci was this week appointed the head of Europe, Middle East and Africa by none other Lenovo, Acer’s Chinese rival. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

This summer has seen some interesting blog posts from the venture capital community on the “rise of the super angels” – seasoned entrepreneurs who’ve cashed out and are reinvesting in the next generation.

Seedcamp, the European investor and events programme, is a big part of that story. Next week will see the fourth Seedcamp week in London, with 23 young companies jostling for up to €50,000 in investment and expert mentoring in what’s been dubbed the “X Factor for startups”.

But the increasingly active angel community means that Seedcamp has found itself facing competition too. Read more

Maija Palmer

Facebook logoWhen Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer, and Elliot Schrage, the company’s head of public policy,  flew to Washington DC on Monday for a grueling four-hour “showdown” meeting with a senior UK child protection official, the company wanted to send a strong signal that it was ready to listen and act on local concerns.

Facebook is desperate to draw a line under an escalating controversy in the UK over child safety. Always a target for scare stories over everything from spreading venereal disease to teenage depression, Facebook has recently come under scrutiny following the conviction of Peter Chapman, a serial rapist who used Facebook to meet a 17-year-old girl, who he went on to rape and murder. Read more

Maija Palmer

copyrightIt is another change of tactics in a war that has been going on for 50 years. This week, consumer electronics companies led by Apple, HP, Sony, Panasonic and Research In Motion, broke off the latest round of talks to reform the Europe’s convoluted system of private copy levies.

The copy levies are surcharges placed on devices such as MP3 players and printers by 22 European countries, to compensate writers, artists, and musicians for small amounts of personal copying of their material. It is not to be confused with illegal filesharing; the copy levies are intended to cover handfuls of copies in the private sphere, which many countries allow. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Tech entrepreneurs are fleeing from social networks and advertising revenue streams and moving into business applications, according to Seedcamp, the start-up investor that holds its annual event in London later this month.

Seedcamp – which was founded by Index Ventures’ Saul Klein and Reshma Sohoni, formerly of 3i – has seen advertising-based business models drop from 30 per cent to 10 per cent of the 1,500 entries to its Pop Idol-style investment contest since 2007.

By contrast, marketplaces that take a fee or percentage of transactions have risen by more than 60 per cent in the last three years, while “freemium” businesses have more than doubled. Productivity and business applications have increased 90 per cent while online games have “skyrocketed”, said Ms Sohoni. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

A who’s who of European technology entrepreneurs will be providing guidance and mentoring to a new generation of start-ups at this year’s Seedcamp. Founded by Saul Klein of Index Ventures and run by Reshma Sohoni, formerly of 3i and Softbank Capital, Seedcamp aims to build and support a community of European tech entrepreneurs, culminating in its main event in London this September.

The best-known entrepreneurs on this year’s advisor list are Niklas Zennstrom, founder of Skype, the internet telephony service, and more recently Joost, a web video provider; and Brent Hoberman of travel site Lastminute.com and, latterly, Mydeco, an online furniture retailer. Read more